Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Your 2005 National Champs

Last night’s game appears to be my last chance to do a bullet-point breakdown for awhile, so I’ll have to take the opportunity. Let me first set up the evening for you. I went over to the apartment of my friends Kosta and The Franchise for a cookout, and game-watching extravaganza. Pre-game festivities included the cooking of approximately 50 sausages (which was kind of overkill, as there were only about 8 of us there), the enjoyment of the finals of a bowling tournament on ESPN (no one had the initiative to pick up the remote and turn on pre-game), and a 20-minute discussion by the rest of the boys over how to go about buying a bat for softball season. As we flipped over to player introductions at 8:20pm, my expectations for the game had been pushed up by the strangely enjoyable experience of mocking pro bowlers with my friends. I was also very pleased that I was not a member of the softball team, and therefore had to play no role in the debate over what the quality and weight of the chosen bat for the year should be. That such a conversation could take 20 minutes actually frightened me.

Enough build-up, though. On to my points:

1) Props for best attire on the evening went to my friend Dez, who showed up in his #23 North Carolina jersey that looked like it had a few miles on it. In fact, I would even guess that it pre-dated my attire for the evening--the UNC sweatshirt that I had bought on Franklin Street back when I was 17 and checking out the Chapel Hill campus (where I still wish I could have gone to school). I wasn’t really actively rooting for or against anyone last night, but I think that sweatshirt was the only gear which I had with the mark of either team, so I went with it.

2) Not to keep harping on fashion, but Roy Williams had to know that he was coaching in the biggest college basketball game of the year last night, yet he chose a tie that looked like something out of my dad’s closet circa 1985. Can we get a menswear sponsor for Roy, please?

3) I wanted to end the clothing talk there, but I suppose someone’s going to call me out for not ragging on Bruce Weber’s jacket after I called out Roy Williams for a bad tie. Well, Weber gets a pass from me. That’s right—the hideous orange jacket is something that I don’t mind. Outside of the context of the game, sure, Weber looked like a bad real estate agent. But the orange thing is about team pride. His players probably loved it, and were I an Illinois fan, I’d love it too. Williams’ tie, unlike Weber’s coat, bore no relation to team unity.

4) My buddy the Franchise must have said 6-8 times throughout the course of the game “This game’s over” when Carolina would get up by double digits. Normally, I’d rip on my good friend for failing to recognize over and over that Illinois is a team that never totally goes away (indeed, they didn’t). However, he at least based his repeated premature calls of the game on sound theory—if Carolina just kept dumping the ball into Sean May, Illinois would never stop him, and never make up ground, no matter how much they scored. That was almost the way that it went, though ultimately after the 3rd or 4th time that Illinois fought back from a deficit, I would have hoped that the Franchise would have realized they’d be hanging around for awhile.

5) Ah, Sean May. Finally, the rest of the country gets to see what I’ve been going nuts over for three years. The first time I saw that guy in a Carolina uniform, I knew he was going to be my favorite player to watch for a long time. His freshman year, before his broken foot, I raved “he has the feet of a ballerina, and the body of an offensive lineman.” Last season I toyed with the idea of ordering ESPN Fullcourt, primarily because I wanted to see May play an extra 4 times (luckily, sanity won out and I saved my money). This season, he finally rose to the head of his uber-talented class and came to outshine Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants. Finally, we’re exactly where I thought we’d be just three years ago.

6) With as many stellar juniors on the floor as there were last night, the question arises—who stays, and who goes to the NBA? Well, the only guy that I’m absolutely sure about is Deron Williams, who I think will be wearing a bad suit and posing with David Stern in June. Sure, he had a great season, but has anyone done more for themselves in the tournament? I have loved a lot about this guy’s game for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed until recently how automatic his mid-range jumper is. He’ll do well for himself next year in that ridiculous league that I refuse to watch. As for the others, I think that Dee Brown and Sean May will be sticking around, and Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams are gone. I base this on nothing but hunches, though, so don’t hold me to these predictions.

7) At the end of the game, Luther Head was named Illinois’ player of the game, and CBS noted that he had scored 21 points. Really? Was I in the bathroom or something when those points were scored? Head’s 21 had to be the quietest superb performance that I’ve seen all year. I actually thought he had sort of disappeared last night. Nice job flying under the radar, Luther.

8) Did anyone actually turn the ball over in this game? Someone in the room with me noted at the end of the game that there were no turnovers in the second half. We quickly realized that this was an incorrect assertion, but still—it seemed plausible, given the way the game was played. The two best teams around did not disappoint.

9) I am still astounded by Illinois' inability to knock down any of the numerous open looks that they got for themselves at the end of the game. I kind of feel bad that their shooting failed them during the time when they most needed it. I don't feel too bad, though, since both teams played about as well as anyone could expect. Sometimes you just go cold for a minute.

10) So Roy Williams finally got his championship. I was happy for him. Though most Wisconsin fans hate him for an offhand remark that he made about the Wisconsin-Michigan State 2000 national semifinal game setting basketball back 10 years (let it go, people!), I kind of like the guy. I still remember the first time that North Carolina came after him while he was at Kansas. I was a bit tense, since at the time, I was pretty sure that Kansas was going to be where I ended up for law school (ultimately the point was mute, as I duped Wisconsin into letting me stick around). KU would have lost a lot of luster if Roy Williams had bolted. No, I’ve never picked my schools for rational reasons.

11) Did anyone else want to punch Jim Nantz when he used the line “The Madness began in March, continued into April, and now it belongs to May,” in reference to Sean May’s excellent tournament performance? How long do you think Nantz had been waiting to throw out that weak pun?

And we’ll close out today’s breakdown with my thoughts on One Shining Moment. Though the original version of the song was not used, every other aspect of the showing made me think that CBS was directed to my letter, and took note of my requests. First and foremost, no computer graphics were used. This was truly wonderful, and needs no further comment. Second, though the song was not the original, that horrible guitar riff that I referred to yesterday was nowhere to be found. It was progress, something that hasn’t been seen so far with One Shining Moment. And finally, my favorite UWM player, James Wright, got tons of face time, as he was seen both crying and flexing his biceps for the cameras. I wasn’t as touched by this particular installment as I have been by others, but I do like that CBS seemingly produced this one specifically for me. Thanks, guys. I might even watch an episode of Yes, Dear now as a thank you gesture. That should speak volumes about how happy I was to see no computer graphics.

I’ve got probably two more updates planned before I go on semi-hiatus until next season. Hopefully they’ll be out within the next week or so, though I make no promises of diligence now that the season is over.

Monday, April 04, 2005

One Shining Evening

Well, tonight the road finally ends. The two teams that everyone has pegged as the two best in the land square off. As I’ve said all year, I think North Carolina is the best team around when they’re on, but Illinois, though slightly less stellar, is more consistent, and brings it every night. How tonight’s championship game will go, I honestly don’t know. For the reasons above, I’d definitely take Illinois in an NBA-style 7-game series. Since it’s one game, though, I’ll gamble on Carolina showing up to play tonight, and take the Heels 85-79.

Enough about that, though—there’s a more pressing matter on the docket. Below is an open letter to CBS regarding my biggest concern of the evening. It is not a particularly unique concern, as most that I know feel the same way, but it is worth noting:

Dear CBS:

I wish to express some concerns that I have with your broadcast of the college basketball championship game. Let me first compliment you on you stellar coverage to this point. Your diligent planning and willingness to partner with other organizations has allowed basketball fans across this nation to view every game of the tournament to this point. For early rounds, when faced with a broadcaster shortage, you somehow managed to borrow the services of several ESPN announcers who, along with your guys, are among the best in the business. You brought us every second of the most exciting regional final weekend ever. On off days, you even brought us documentaries about the 1966 Texas Western team, and Gary Williams’ resurrection of the Maryland program (and yes, I will overlook the fact that both pieces showed for the third consecutive year). So far it has all been phenomenal. And because I want to keep respecting all that is good about your college basketball coverage, I have just one request:

Don’t crap up One Shining Moment.

The One Shining Moment montage, which you created, has become a highly important yearly event for fans across the nation. It is a time when we may reflect back on the season. We can take time out and consider things like UWM’s improbable run to the Sweet 16, or Illinois’ miracle comeback against Arizona. For many men, it is the only time that it is acceptable to openly weep. In short, this 5-minute segment is a vital yearly event not only for basketball fans, but for male society as well.

In recent years, however, you have made various ill-fated attempts to enhance this experience for us. I cannot fault the intent. After all, without others having the drive to improve on the viewing experience, I would not have had the ability to record games on my DVR box. Nor would I have a savings account, as high definition television would not exist, and I would have no motivation to save money for anything. However, I cannot say that I have been anything but disappointed with the outcome of your attempts to improve One Shining Moment.

I first take issue with your recent use of a new Luther Vandross version of the One Shining Moment song. Mr. Vandross is undoubtedly talented. Indeed, he is perhaps too talented for the song, which is special in a cheesy sort of way. A talent like Mr. Vandross draws attention away from the raw emotion of the amateurish song, and makes us take note of the lame guitar riff in the middle. Please, stick to the original song, and we will all be happier.

My second problem with your recent One Shining Moment montages is the one that disturbs me the most. I cannot stress this next point enough. Please, for the love of God, do not use computer graphics to enhance the court action. I’ll say that again—no computer graphics. I still remember the watching the 2002 One Shining Moment and being supremely let down the first time computer graphics filled the screen during the action. I immediately called my friend T.J., a man who loves One Shining Moment more than anyone else that I know, and also a fierce traditionalist. He was equally upset. Why is this so disturbing? Just look at the footage. I don’t need glitter coming off of the West Virginia bench after their upset of Wake Forest to know how wonderful the moment was. If Deron Williams throws a behind the back pass to James Augustine for a dunk, the play is cheapened when a computerized star also darts behind Willams’ back. There’s a lot wrong with college athletics, but One Shining Moment is about the pure emotion that runs through the tournament. It is our 5-minutes a year to forget that several of the teams in the tournament probably cheated at something, and that Bob Huggins is finally going to break the 0% barrier for graduation rate this year. So when Hassan Adams goes up for a dunk, I don’t want to see rockets going off at his feet, and when my favorite UWM player, James Wright cries, his tears had better not be orange. I hope you can see how these events stand on their own.

My request is a simple one, but it is important to me. I hope to be sobbing like a baby tonight when you remind me after the game that the season’s over. So again, keep up the good work on everything else and remember—don’t crap up One Shining Moment.



Friday, April 01, 2005

The Perfect Storm

The perfect storm of me being busy during the evening, computer problems at work and home, and a busy time at work have led to a recent failure to comment on the current happenings in basketball, and many of this year's interesting points. I promise that I haven't shut it down just yet--I just can't seem to find the time or infrasturcture to comment. More to follow this weekend...

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